United States: DOT Creates CDL Drug And Alcohol Clearinghouse, Imposing Employer Reporting And Query Obligations

On December 2, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a final rule establishing a new "Commercial Driver's License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse." The Clearinghouse will provide a central database identifying violations of DOT's drug and alcohol testing program by drivers who operate vehicles that require a commercial driver's license (CDL), and information about whether such a driver has successfully completed the DOT-mandated return-to-duty rehabilitation processes. Creation of the Clearinghouse was mandated by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, a 2012 Congressional transportation funding initiative.

Beginning in 2020, the rule will require covered employers to register with DOT and to comply with obligations in two areas: "Reporting" and driver "Queries."

Registration and Reporting Obligations

Under the new rule, on or after January 6, 2020,1 covered employers must register with the Clearinghouse. After registering, such employers will be obligated to report the following matters to the Clearinghouse by the close of the third business day following the date the employer obtained the information:

  • Verified positive, adulterated, or substituted DOT drug test results.
  • DOT alcohol confirmation tests with a concentration of 0.04 or higher.
  • Refusal to submit to any DOT-mandated test.
  • An employer's actual knowledge of DOT-prohibited alcohol and drug use.

Employers will have no obligation to report drug and alcohol use that is not prohibited by DOT rules or to report the results of testing that is not mandated by DOT.

Query Obligations and Requirements

The new rule will require covered employers to make queries to the Clearinghouse about both applicants and employees. To facilitate such queries, employers will pay a fee that DOT has not yet determined, with options for subscription and batch requests.

Applicant Queries

With respect to applicants, a covered employer will not be permitted to employ a driver subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing rules without first conducting a pre-employment query of the Clearinghouse to obtain information about whether the driver has had verified positive, adulterated, or substituted DOT drug or alcohol test results, has refused to submit to a DOT test, or an employer has reported actual knowledge of DOT-prohibited alcohol and drug use. ("Employ" in the DOT regulations means to use the driver regardless of the actual employment relationship. Therefore, the query obligation will apply to independent contractor drivers as well as regular employees.)2

Until the Clearinghouse has been operational for three years, employers will also be required to request drug and alcohol-testing histories from previous employers in addition to querying the Clearinghouse. Thereafter, the Clearinghouse query will satisfy the DOT drug and alcohol background check requirement, except where an employee was subject to testing under DOT modalities3 other than the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration regulations.

Annual Driver Inquiries

Covered employers will also be obliged to make queries at least annually about current drivers subject to DOT drug and alcohol testing rules. Employers that learn of reportable information from a Clearinghouse inquiry may not return a driver to safety-sensitive work until the driver completes the DOT return-to-duty process. In lieu of a full query, an employer may be able to conduct a limited query that will simply tell the employer whether there is information about the individual driver in the Clearinghouse, without releasing that information to the employer. If a limited query shows that information exists in the Clearinghouse, the employer would then be obliged to make a full query.

Required Consent for Inquiries

No employer will be permitted to query the Clearinghouse without first obtaining the applicant's or driver's written or electronic consent, which must be retained by the employer for three years from the date of the last query. Drivers must also submit electronic consent to the Clearinghouse before an employer may access records about that driver. If a driver refuses to provide consent to the employer and to the Clearinghouse, the driver may not be permitted to perform DOT safety-sensitive work.

Sunset Provision

The Clearinghouse rule provides that when a driver has satisfied all DOT return-to-duty procedures and prescribed follow-up testing, and five years have passed since the violation determination, information about the violation will no longer be available to employers.

Ample Time to Prepare With 2020 Implementation Date

While the final DOT rule will take effect on January 4, 2017, employers will not be obliged to comply with its mandates until over three years later, on January 6, 2020.4 The Clearinghouse infrastructure does not currently exist and will not be created for some time. As a practical matter, therefore, employers will not be able to register, report violations or conduct queries until it is established. Guidance in DOT's Commercial Driver's License Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse Frequently Asked Questions expressly advises that employer obligations will not attach until the 2020 Compliance Date:

. . .

2. Will violations that occur before the Clearinghouse rule is implemented be included in the Clearinghouse?

No. The Clearinghouse will contain only violations that occurred on or after the rule's implementation date of January 4,5 2020.

Thus, employers will have ample time to prepare for compliance with the new rule. In doing so, employers should develop appropriate consent forms, decide whether full annual inquiries or only limited inquiries (with any needed follow-up) will be conducted, and draft and implement policies to ensure compliance with Clearinghouse rule requirements.


1 Covered employers will need to register no later than the first time on or after January 6, 2016 there is either a Reporting or driver Query obligation, i.e., the first time Clearinghouse access is necessary to comply with the new rule.

2 In some circumstances, employers not in the transportation business that subcontract with third parties with required DOT-operating authority would likely not need to verify a subcontractor's compliance with the Clearinghouse rules.

3 In addition to the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration, DOT modalities include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

4 Since the rule is subject to review by Congress under the Congressional Review Act, it would not survive if Congress passes a resolution invalidating it and the resolution is approved by the President. Since the rule was promulgated in response to a Congressional mandate, however, we do not expect such an outcome.

5 The DOT FAQ contains a typo, identifying the implementation date as January 4, 2020, whereas the compliance date established and identified by DOT in the Federal Register is January 6, 2020.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.